Set against marketing messages, I would rather listen to my neighbor’s opinion of a product. A critic’s opinion. An expert’s. Any idiot with an Internet connection, in fact (according to our research, review content from complete strangers is more trustworthy than messages from brands).
The payload of this realization – that marketers’ messages are overinvested in by a million percent and underdeliver by an equal value – strikes our marketing foundations, oh so softly. Thud. Pop. Distant thunder.
Simultaneously it’s never been easier for other people to write about our brands, to create breathtaking personal tributes to our products, to call out our worst policies, and even to slander us. The crowds have snatched the megaphone and they won’t give it back.
These are two factors in a big equation that we’re still only beginning to calculate.
So far, we’ve dealt with these changes pragmatically and conservatively.
Community management is a perfect example of the pragmatic response. Community management is just a series of tribal agreements about playing rules. The brand will not allow threads that include the word “shit”. The brand will retweet only tweets from registered users. The brand answers requests within one hour between 9 AM and 9 PM EST. The brand will blog politely about its topic.
The marketing fortress has collapsed, the mobs are baying for blood, and the sop you throw this change is to play nice? This is what I’d call the Marie Antoinette response.
Forrester has a new book coming out soon entitled Empowered written by two Forrester analysts. Its focus is on the power of social technologies in the hands of the general public and what this means for businesses. Although the book concentrates on sales and marketing, the implications for learning are huge. Empowered challenges businesses to give their employees the power of social technologies to respond quickly to customer needs. No one knows the customers better than the employees who work with them daily so “unleash” these employees from the established process and boundaries and encourage them to come up with solutions to customer problems, to issues in the work environment, and even to learning topics. The book’s vivid examples show the dangers of remaining in a status quo mode. It also profiles innovative company employees (called HEROes) who have generated approaches using technologies that have made a major difference in their companies’ ability to communicate quickly and successfully with customers. The message of the book: To succeed with empowered customers, you must empower your employees to solve customer problems.